My own bicycle incident to match the headlines today

There is a fascinating story on the front page of the Oregonian about a wild bike-car fight. The story details how a long-time bicycle activist was driving his family home when a biker passed him on the left and ran a stoplight. The driver let the biker know he was in the wrong and he was giving other bikers a bad name. From there it turned wild as the biker began to use his bike as a weapon hitting it against the car with the man’s family inside. The biker turned out to be drunk and actually worked for the City of Portland Transportation Department (I don’t make this stuff up).

Just yesterday, yes yesterday, I turned right into an intersection where biker was approaching ways away on the left. To me the biker was far off, but he thought different as he yelled and then flipped me off as he passed. Being that the biker is the one at possible risk I acquiesce to his time-space judgment and accept the rebuke (although there is never a need for obscenities). After I finally turned right into the intersection the biker decided to not leave the matter alone. He moved into the middle of the lane making passing him impossible in the no-pass lane. He was able to slow me down for a long stretch until I was able to pass him. Once I did pass he correctly moved to the right of the road letting me know he was doing it to screw with me.

I blew the whole thing off as stupid. Just imagine for a moment if it was another driver who reacted angrily to the obscenities and taunts by the biker. Some drivers would taunt back and use their vehicle as a weapon. This is how things get blown out of proportion and people get hurt. In reality, both drivers and bikers need to improve. All you have to do is listen to Lars Larson to hear people talk about their own testimony on biker incidents. I hope this front page story will help shock some back to their senses on how bad it can get. There is never a reason for retaliatory road rage.

I once asked my friend Dave what traffic bad habit bothers him the most. He said he gets angry when people pull into a four way stop and they do NOT proceed in a single car clockwise fashion. What the hey? I told him the opposite. At a four way stop I expect the East-West cars to pass at the same time helping to save time by having two cars cross the intersection at once. I get frustrated at the very thing Dave expects to happen. I think I may be in the wrong on this one. It just goes to show how mixed driving ideas add to an already explosive situation.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to LinkedIn Post to Reddit

Posted by at 05:30 | Posted in Measure 37 | 15 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Anonymous

    Must be those tights they wear that makes them so full of hate and childishness.

  • don

    East-West traffic movement at a 4 way stop is the most efficient and remember people left turners DO NOT have the right of way.

    • Jason W.

      You bet it is teh most efficient, but I wonder if ODOT rules demand a one-car clockwise exiting of intersections. It sounds small, but never underestimate traffic rules.

  • John Fairplay

    What I found most humorous about this story was the claim that “a few” bikers who don’t follow the rules of the road make the majority look bad. It’s a myth that the majority do follow the rules of the road. It is the rare biker who will stop and wait for a red light to change. I seldom see one riding above the minimum speed. They ride on the sidewalk. They ride next to automobiles in the same lane. They pass standing traffic on the right and left and roll through stop signs.

    If bikers committing illegal acts were the exception, I’d never see them, but I see them almost every single day on a very short commute to work and back.

  • Bob Clark

    Driving in Portland city is getting more nerve racking all the time. I don’t want to hit a bicyclist but some bicyclists make it more of a risk by not even slowing down at four way stop intersections, for instance. Many bikers are not really sharing the road either as expected of car drivers. For instance, they pedal side by side slowly up a hill slowing a line of cars behind them. I’ve also been on the other side when one time I was biking home from work and a passenger in a truck thought it would be funny to try and hit me on the back with his hand as the truck sped by. I stopped riding a bike for a year or more after this incidence.

    I think as we pack more and more people into the same area (densification) there are some real social impacts incurred like trying to negotiate around a stream of various commuters. The planners don’t seem to give much value to the human need for space. It’s not as though Oregon doesn’t have any open spaces to allow folks to spread out a little more than currently.

    • dean

      I’ve been cycling in and around Portland for over 30 years, and before that cycle commuted in Chicago (20 mile round trip through the mean streets to my family pizza pub) and at college in Iowa. Portland cycling safety has improved tremendously over the past 10 years. Yes, there are some idiots on cycles, many more than there used to be, but not proportionally to the increased number of cyclists. And there are many idiots behind the wheel of cars and trucks, some drunk and perpetually angry, though again not disproportionate to the increased numbers of drivers.

      Bob is right that increased density means more people sharing limited space. We could choose to spread out more, but that is not where things are headed, particularly with what looks to be a permanent and ever increasing cost of petrol and reduced road maintenance funds (spreading out means more roads to maintain).

      By the way…the dude getting out of his car to confront the angry cyclist who was already bashing his bike on the car made a judgement error at that point. I’m not blaming him for the confrontation, but why expose yourself to a nut swinging 30 pounds of steel around? Where is the gain? Dial 911 and retreat.

      Kudos to the other dude who cold-copped the drunk, out of control cyclist. I hope he gets a reward.

      • Jay Bozievich

        I can’t believe this, but I am going to agree with Dean…

        Dean is right about there being drunk and angry motorist. (I can’t tell you how many times whether in the car or on the bike I have been on the recieving end of some major crazy.) But, people like Dean, myself and even Sen. Jason Atkinson do obey the traffic laws and avoid confrontations with motorists.

        The one thing about cyclist is that there are a disproportionate amount that are on the bike for two reasons that make them predisposed to poor judgement:

        1) They are too young to get a license but are still allowed on the road on a bike, or

        2) They lost their license because of a DUI or can’t afford a vehicle because of a drug habit, etc. (You know the ones riding around with there handle bars turned upside down balancing three trash bags of empty beer cans…)

        Of course, just like motorist, there are the just plain ignorant or arrogant.

        I promise to do my best to ride safely and legally. Please try to remember that not all cyclist are out there to break the law.

      • PK2

        I guess the thing that gets me in this whole biker/motorist debate is the “us against them” mentality. I applaud the driver who “blew the whole thing off as stupid” after his incident. Combating the insanity with rational thinking is the best approach to curbing this problem.

        As noted, rules of the road exist for a reason. They are in place for the safety of everyone. My hope is that more people will learn to display things like common courtesy and respect to their fellow human being (bikers and motorists alike). We mustn’t wait for the other guy to do the right thing before we start acting in an appropriate manner. It serves no good purpose to judge or seek vengeance on the other person for their misdeeds. We should be paying more attention to our own behavior. Then we can hope to become part of the solution instead of adding to the problem.

      • cc

        Yes, there are some idiots on cycles, many more than there used to be, but not proportionally to the increased number of cyclists”

        For someone who’s ridden around here for 30 years you must have stopped about 10 years ago to believe what you wrote. I’ve been riding for more like 40 years and, in the last 10 years, the “bike culture” has changed drastically – and not for the better. Rudeness, carelessness, failure to obey signs, lights, other rules has become FAR more prevalent than in the 80’s and 90’s.

        The proportion of “bad apples” in the biking community is in the majority these days. Maybe they don’t ride to Damascus (who would, it’s too dangerous) but they ride all over the inner city, the West Hills, Washington county roads and, half the time, in the outlying areas, they drive to wherever they desire to recreate. Their sense of entitlement know no bounds and woe to him who questions it.

        IMO, motorists have gotten worse, proportionally, over the last 20 years. But bicyclists have gotten MUCH worse – dean’s opinion notwithstanding.

        HOWEVER, I must agree with dean’s sentiment regarding the passer-by who cold-cocked (that’s the term, dude) the drunk bicyclist.

        • dean

          I stand corrected on cold-cocked. Last time it happened to me it rattled a few screws that still may need tightening up.

          Cyclists do cycle to, from, and around Damascus. The owner of River City Cycles lives out here and cycles into Portland to work daily. The Springwater Trail is just over the hill, and connects all the way to Boring. Cycling these rural roads takes planning, skill, and caution, but we manage.

          No, I did not stop riding 10 years ago, but do ride in Portland much less than I did when I lived there. It could be the proportion of unskilled or obnoxious cyclists has increased. I have no data either way. But there are clearly a lot more riders and that adds up to more conflicts.

          I did see a statistic in the Oregonian the other day that the absolute number of bicycle-vehicle collisions is at or below the rate from over 10 years ago, meaning that proportionally there are far fewer accidents. If true, I would attribute it to the improved bicycle infrastructure.

  • Bob Clark

    I think there’s hope for the car regarding fuel cost. Cars are transitioning to electricity in one form and another, enhancing energy economy enormously. Also, I’ve followed commodities since the 1970s and 1980s as a utility economist, and commodities go through long price cycles (10 to 20 years) because they are very capital intensive, financially risky industries. So, I really don’t think the current spike in oil prices should be an excuse to pack people on top of each other into tight spaces. If they choose to do so individually that’s one thing, but government shouldn’t take sides and artificially pressure this choice as currently.

    • dean

      Bob…okay…off the subject of bikes and on to density. To what extent is it “forced” and to what extent is it a consumer “choice?” This is not so easy to answer because the private sector housing that gets built depends on how the government zones the land. If it zones for low density, that is what gets built, and that is what the market has to provide. Many suburbs around the nation use low density zoning as a way to keep out the riff raff. In other words, they block the choice of consumers to opt for higher density by shunting them somewhere else. On the other hand, there is no question that Oregon’s land use system has “forced” communities to zone higher density, thus creating and sustaining a market for smaller lot homes, condos, townhomes, and so forth.

      Either way you have government influencing the market. I don’t see any way around it other than to try and insure that there is a reasonable balance amongst the vailable choices. Shifting demographics means that this is not a static balance by the way.

      Back in the 90s local developers complained that government was forcing them to build on smaller lots than what the market wanted. But now that situation has changed. I am presently working for a developer who is trying to get a suburban community to raise its density limits so that he can build market rate homes on small lots, which is what people can afford to buy.

      As long as we have zoning we will have market interference by government. Houston is the only US city that lacks zoning, and it is so loaded with private covenents that the “market” there has been frozen in place, with limited ability to increase inner city densities even though “the market” wants that to happen.

      I can also asure you that you can buy a 2500 square foot home here in Damascus on an acre or more for LESS than you would pay for a 2500 square foot rowhouse on a 2000 square foot lot in Sellwood. Options are still available. I think the Portland market is now stronger for inner city dense housing than it is for outer suburb large lot housing. So what should government zoning do?

      • John Fairplay

        Boy, Dean, you really do not understand what a “market” is. The demand for high density housing is approaching zero – otherwise there wouldn’t be all those vacant and/or for sale condos and row houses in the Pearl and the other trendy spots like SoWa. Many are now converting to high-end apartments and they can’t rent/lease them that way either.

        People in Portland would like to own your description of what’s available in Damascus – but they can’t because there’s no zoning to support it. Portland government has created – for its own purposes – an artificial barrier having nothing to do with what people actually want.

        It would be interesting to see what would happen if zoning were more broadly applied – that is, some areas are “single-family housing” some are “industrial” some are “multi-family” – but as long as you’re building the approved use, lot size is not dictated. This is essentially what we had before 1973 and there are some beautiful developments of mixed-housing types out in the suburbs because of it. I suspect you’d end up with a diversity of home sites in a given area rather than the cookie-cutter developments we have now if we went back to that.

        • dean

          John…the condo market crashed, but so did the large home on large lot market in the burbs, and the latter is inflexible with respect to renting. Builders of large suburban homes are floating belly up. House prices in Portland have held up much better than prices in the newer suburban areas of outer Vancouver and Happy Valley. Essentially any product over $500K is in trouble because of issues lenders have on jumbo loans. The condo market has always been volatile, but that is not true for the large home on large lot market, which is what makes its crash interesting.

          Sure…many Portland residents would love to be on an acre in the middle of town. But the underlying land value is much too high for that option. If you or I were fortunate enough to have a house on an acre in inner Portland we would be begging the city to rezone our property for a more appropriate density given the market and location. The regional market suggests people are opting (by paying more) for the convenience of inner location over the greater size and inconveniences available farther out.

          I tend to agree with your suggestion on zoning however. I would like to see a more “performance based,” rather than “density based” zoning of new residential neighborhoods. Performance based can address environmental impacts like traffic generation, light, impervious surface, and so forth, allowing flexibility on how many units and what size. Rigid zoning is too inflexible. Some of the newer master planned suburban neighborhoods, like Fairview Village, Orenco, and Villebois do have the sort of mixed housing types you describe. But most suburban communities do not allow mixing of housing types in a given development, which is why we get cookie cutter. Its not a market preference.

          An example of performance based zoning I have used here in Damascus is demonstrating that a single story 10,000 square foot house on an acre has the same impervious surface and site impacts as 10 2000 square foot 2 story homes. What would the market build? Easy. 10 $500K homes would beat the single 2 million dollar home any day of the week.

  • doctorandus

    ORS 814.430 allows a bicycle the full lane “when reasonably necessary … to avoid unsafe operation in a lane on the roadway that is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side.” The only thing the cyclist did to “screw with you” was to obey the law.

Stay Tuned...

Stay up to date with the latest political news and commentary from Oregon Catalyst through daily email updates:

Prefer another subscription option? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Twitter Facebook

No Thanks (close this box)